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The Berachot Before and After the Haftara

The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes (Vayeseh, 21) that within twelve months of a parent’s passing, Heaven forbid, the Aliya of Maftir is the most beneficial of all Aliyot for the departed soul. This is especially so, the Ben Ish Hai adds, on Shabbatot that have a special Maftir reading, such as Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Para, and Shabbat Rosh Hodesh. However, the Hesed La’alafim (Rav Eliezer Papo, 1786-1827) warns that if the person who receives the Aliya of Maftir does not properly pronounce the words of the Berachot or of the Haftara, then instead of bringing benefit for his departed parent’s soul, he does just the opposite. Therefore, if one fears that he is unable to pronounce the words properly, he should elevate his parent’s soul by giving charity, and allow somebody else to receive Maftir. The Misva is to read the Berachot and the Haftara for the congregation, and thus the words must be pronounced properly.

Years ago, the one who received the Aliya of Maftir would read the Haftara for the congregation, just like on Purim one person reads the Megilla for the entire congregation, who listen attentively to the reading. The Ariizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572), however, taught that the proper practice nowadays is for everybody to read the Haftara from the Humashim along with the person who received Maftir. The Kaf Ha’haim (Rav Yaakob Haim Sofer, Baghdad-Israel, 1867-1939) writes that for this reason, the one who recites the Berachot must have in mind that he recites them not only for himself, but also for the congregation, who read the Haftara along with him.

The Shulhan Aruch writes that the Beracha over the Haftara should not be recited until the Sefer Torah is closed, as it would be disrespectful to the Sefer Torah to recite the Beracha while it is open.

Many people make the mistake of answering "Amen" in the middle of the Beracha recited before the Haftara, after the words, "Ha’ne’emarim Be’emet." There is only one Beracha recited before the Haftara, which ends with the words, "Ha’emet Ve’ha’sedek," and thus one should not answer "Amen" until after these words are recited. Some people also make the mistake of answering "Amen" in the middle of the first Beracha recited after the Haftara, after the words, "Emet Va’sedek," despite the fact that the Beracha continues until "Ha’Kel Ha’ne’eman Be’chol Devarav." It is customary to pause after the words, "Emet Va’sedek," because, as the Aruch Ha’shulhan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein of Nevarduk, 1829-1908) explains, congregations in the olden days would sing the next portion of this Beracha – "Ne’eman Ata Hu" – along with the one reciting the Berachot. However, although a pause is made, this point does not signify the end of the Beracha, and thus "Amen" should not be recited at this point.

The Shulhan Aruch writes that when Rosh Hodesh falls on Shabbat, the one reciting the Berachot after the Haftara does not mention Rosh Hodesh in the final Beracha. Meaning, when he recites, "Ve’al Yom Ha’Shabbat Ha’zeh," he does not then add "Ve’al Yom Rosh Ha’hodesh Ha’zeh." Since the occasion of Rosh Hodesh does not require the reading of a Haftara, and the Haftara is read only because it is Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh is not mentioned in the Berachot.

It is customary to recite a "Mi’she’berach" prayer for each person who receives an Aliya, immediately after the Aliya. Whereas some Ashkenazic communities recite one collective "Mi’she’berach" for everybody after the Haftara, the accepted practice among Sepharadim is to recite a separate "Mi’she’berach" prayer after each Aliya. It is also customary after somebody receives an Aliya for a Yartzheit to recite the "Hashkaba" prayer for the deceased family member. It should be noted that, as the Zohar (cited by the Kaf Ha’haim) comments, we mention the deceased’s name and his or her mother’s name when reciting the "Hashkaba." The reason, the Zohar explains, is that while praying we must speak in definitive terms, without any uncertainty. Therefore, since the identity of a person’s mother is verifiable whereas the identity of the father is only presumed, the mother’s name is mentioned when praying for somebody.

Those who receive Aliyot must ensure to recite the Berachot aloud, such that everybody in the synagogue can hear them, and to pronounce the words properly. This applies as well to the Berachot before and after the Haftara. The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 284) writes that by listening to these Berachot, we can be considered as having recited them ourselves as part of the requirement to recite one hundred Berachot each day. While on weekdays we recite fifty-seven Berachot just by reciting the three Amida prayers, the four Amida prayers on Shabbat total only twenty-eight Berachot. In order to make up the missing Berachot so we can reach a total of one hundred Berachot over the course of the day, we should listen to the Berachot recited over the Torah reading and the Haftara. Each of the eight Aliyot (including Maftir) includes two Berachot, for a total of sixteen, and then there is one Beracha recited before the Haftara and four after. These Berachot are necessary in order for us to ensure that we recite one hundred Berachot on Shabbat. For this reason, it is important that those who receive Aliyot recite the Berachot loudly and clearly, so they can be counted toward the congregants’ recitation of one hundred Berachot.


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